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Open Access ‘I’m feeling some sapphic vibes comin’ off of you.’

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Female roles and sexuality on television have come a long way since the traditional representation of women as homogeneously soft, passive and (sexually) submissive. However, these representations are often still trapped in a rigid, binary framework on gender and sexuality. Representations of LGBTQ1 subjects have also become far more common, although they are still often stereotypical, while transgender people continue to be marginalised on mainstream television. The Netflix series Orange is the New Black seems to challenge this view by presenting characters who present different ways of being a woman and by showing women in different sexual roles. This paper presents a qualitative content analysis of this women-in-prison drama, exploring in-depth how femininity and female sexuality are represented. Four main characters were selected as the focal point of the analysis. Our analysis indicates that Orange is the New Black combines more progressive with more conservative elements: on the one hand, femininity is represented as an arbitrary construction and sexuality as fluid, while common stereotypes such as the butch lesbian are used in a self-conscious and humorous way. On the other hand, Orange is the New Black does have a tendency to employ problematic tropes, as the show’s portrayal of African-American and Hispanic women as more tough and streetwise shows us. On the whole, we argue that Orange is the New Black does partly depart from mainstream conventions of female representation and therefore has some subversive potential.
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Keywords: Orange is the New Black; female sexuality; gender; representation; women-in-prison drama

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Alissa De Ceuninck is Master in de Filmstudies en Visuele Cultuur aan de Universiteit Antwerpen. Zij behaalde eerder een Master Communicatiewetenschappen aan de Vrije Universiteit Brussel, met specialisatie in media, democratie en journalistiek., Email: [email protected] 2: Dr. Alexander Dhoest is hoofddocent Communicatiewetenschappen aan de Universiteit Antwerpen, waar hij les geeft over populaire cultuur en film- en televisiegenres. Zijn onderzoek richt zich vooral op de band tussen media en sociale identiteiten, in het bijzonder nationale, culturele en seksuele identiteit., Email: [email protected]

Publication date: March 1, 2016

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  • Het Tijdschrift voor Genderstudies is het forum voor de wetenschappelijke problematisering van sekse in relatie tot andere vormen van discriminatie en uitsluiting zoals etniciteit, seksualiteit, klasse of leeftijd. Er worden artikelen in gepubliceerd over gendervraagstukken vanuit alle relevante disciplines die een wetenschappelijke bijdrage leveren aan debatten over gender en intersectionaliteit in Nederland en Vlaanderen. Het tijdschrift is een interdisciplinair medium op het kruispunt van maatschappij-, cultuur-, geestes-, gezondheids- en natuurwetenschappen. Het verschijnt vier keer per jaar en biedt wetenschappelijke artikelen en daarnaast ook interviews, boekrecensies, discussiedossiers en opiniërende artikelen in het Nederlands en Engels. Artikelen worden dubbelblind beoordeeld door externe deskundigen.

    The Tijdschrift voor Genderstudies (Journal of Gender Studies) is a Dutch language forum for the scientific problematisation of gender in relation to ethnicity, sexuality, class, and age. The journal aims to contribute to debates about gender and diversity in the Netherlands and Flanders. The journal is an interdisciplinary medium operating at the intersection of society, culture, the humanities, health and science. The editorial staff is open to articles about gender issues from different disciplines, and also accepts English articles. As well as publishing articles, the journal includes essays, columns (short topical and polemical articles), interviews, reviews, summaries of dissertations and conference reports. Articles are subjected to a double blind peer review process.
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